After leading the league in scoring for the second year running, Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid finally won league MVP honors in 2022-23 following back-to-back second-place finishes, a well-earned honor, even if we don’t believe he’s the best center in the NBA today. Embiid can do it all, scoring as a post-up option or when facing up, able to shoot threes, possessing great athleticism, quickness and the skill level as a ball-handler to fully leverage those physical gifts into elite production nightly. He’s also an elite defender, especially near the rim, blocking nearly two shots nightly last season and anchoring what was a Top 8 Philadelphia defense.
All that Embiid has left to do is guide the Sixers to more team success, as the team still hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs since Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson was around. At times in the postseason, Embiid’s top-notch ability to make difficult shots actually hurts him because he settles for tough jumpers during crucial possessions that swing games more intensely than in the regular season. His propensity to turn over the ball also really comes back to haunt him in postseason play against elite defenses, as opposing teams are smart about sending last-second doubles at him when Embiid tries to drive to the basket, often leading to vital turnovers due to his sometimes shaky ball-handle in traffic.
Last year’s second-round defeat to the Celtics after the Sixers were up three games to two was particularly difficult for the star big man, as Embiid averaged just 20.0 points and shot 37.8 percent from the floor with eight total turnovers in those two potential closeout games.
Even so, Embiid ranked Top 3 league-wide in VORP, BPM and WS/48 last season and remains one of the best players in the NBA outright, center or not. We expect Embiid to remain at that high-end superstar level in 2023-24.
2022-23 stats: 33.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.7 bpg, 54.8 FG% in 66 games
2023-24 salary: $47,607,350 (3rd overall in salary)